Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four

Impossibly tall trees, their tangled branches like a black maze draped across the sky. Jobe was sitting amongst dead pages in a dark hollow as the trees swept forever upwards, branches outstretched like mountainous scarecrows.
His breath was only a shimmer. A waking dream; the most vivid, lucid dream. He began shaking terribly and glanced around, tears spilling from his eyes, expecting to find some kind of window or portal where Serima and the girl would be seen, still on the floor of his living-room.
There was no portal. Just him, alone, in this place. ‘Oh…no…
He pressed his lips together, afraid, terribly afraid.
This was the place of his dream, these story-trees. But this was nothing like the dream. He was here, actually here, as if transported physically. But that was impossible, he knew. And yet he could feel the wind on his cheek, neither warm nor cold. He could feel his back pressed against the hollow. He could feel these leaves that were pages. He grabbed a handful.
This was an illusion. There was no other explanation that his mind was currently willing to except. If this was a highly sophisticated form of smoke & mirrors, then he could exercise some control over his surroundings. Jobe kept breathing deeply, trying to collapse the eddy churning in his gut.
Eventually he felt himself grow a little calmer. He closed his eyes and opened them again. The monstrous forest was still all around him. He was still afraid to move. Before, he had sensed things out amongst those trees; dark, lawless things that collected these pages for some unknowable purpose. He was here with those things now.
He remembered the one in particular. The one he sensed knew this place better than all the others who walked and traded here. Jobe was alone with these hidden things.
‘…Oh God…’
A young boy was kneeled in the half-light, watching Jobe. All his calm fled from him, the eddy churning fierce in his belly. The boy called out to him, rising to his feet. Jobe watched him approach, tears still rolling down his cheeks. He braced himself for a violent, imminent death. It was absurd that he would die here, of all places; a world that had no right to exist.
‘So you didn’t turn back, Jobe. That’s good…that’s very solvent of you. I like it.’
The boy kneeled again, a few feet away. He was perhaps ten or eleven years old, barefoot, dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt with the words Nova Athletics on it in bright red. A normal young boy. Jobe realised he was not to be disembowelled, dismembered, or broken in two.
‘It was you,’ Jobe murmured, more to himself than to the boy, ‘talking to me, a second ago…You were here with me before.’ The boy nodded. Jobe felt something inside himself sinking, as though his thoughts were being pulled downward through inner soil. ‘What…in God’s name…is this place?’
The boy glanced up at the leviathan trees. ‘This is the First Edifice. Womb of Mysteries. God’s Window. The Emerald City.’ He grinned, scooped a handful of pages from the hollow and then let them fall again. ‘And me? I’m a traveller, I suppose. A writer, like yourself. Rather quaint if you let it be, don’t you think?’
This was not a boy, Jobe sensed immediately, this was not any kind of Man.
‘A writer? From where…?’
‘I come from Rebecca at the moment, and through Sean Reece, vicariously.’
Jobe pulled himself into a kneeling crouch amidst the pages. He stared carefully, meeting this boy’s line of sight. His fear seemed to scatter on the strange wind and he realised he was now more disturbed than afraid. He took a breath.
‘Who’s Sean Reece…?’
‘A young man who died. He took a first dose of some very bad heroin, in a hell-for-leather moment, and it killed him. He left people behind who love him.’ It gestured at the face it wore. ‘This is an image of him at eleven years old.’
Jobe stared, then glanced at the earth around them. ‘What are these pages?’
‘Possibilities. I gather them so I can communicate. I have no intelligible voice of my own. That’s why I need Sean…and Prayer…and you.’
It wanted him; it wanted to claim him for some purpose. ‘I don’t understand…’ Jobe murmured uneasily.
‘It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you came.’
‘I’m dreaming?’
The boy glanced around. ‘Yes. I should hope so.’
‘But this is real, isn’t it?’
‘It’s as real as you lying unconscious in Prayer’s arms, on your living room floor. It’s definitely as real as that, if not a little more so. I brought you here so we could talk, so our voices don’t get too garbled and fuzzy.’
Jobe clenched his hands into fists, glad that most of his fear had left him. ‘I think you need to get the fuck away from me…’
‘Didn’t you hear what I just told you?’
Jobe rose from his kneeling crouch. If this thing thought it could control him with mere words it was mistaken. His fear wasn’t completely gone but he wasn’t going to let this thing get at what remained of it.
‘We’re done here, whatever you are…’
It seemed angry and it rose too, cocking it’s head. ‘This is disappointing.’
‘You can’t keep me here…’
It laughed, sounding strangely jaded. ‘Of course I can.’ It lunged at Jobe like a blur of movement, hurling him up against the smooth bark wall of the hollow and a beat of sharp fear went through him, renewed. ‘I’m real, Jobe. A different kind of blood flows in my veins but I’m as real and imperfect as you are. You’ve got a head full of straw. If you only had a brain. Don’t turn away when I’m trying to talk to you, arrogant fool…’
Jobe laughed, stunned and numb; held immobile by a seeming child.
‘Get the fuck away from me,’ he managed after a breath.
The boy stared hard. ‘Jobe, we don’t have time for this…Prayer made you come here for a good reason, because a massive shift is nearing. There’s others behind me, they’ll make contact soon. Not all of them are as democratic as I am. Pathlights are opening. Some naturally, others have to be triggered. If they’re not, then when it comes, none of you will live to tell the tale.’
‘When what comes?’
‘The End, Jobe. The End of the World. War of Miracles.’ Finally, it released its hold on him.
‘I don’t…I can’t believe you…’
‘You don’t have to believe. It’ll come. You doubt it, but it’ll come as sure as night stalks the day. This is something you cannot stop, you can only be prepared. I can give you some of myself, heighten certain abilities in you. It’s the only way you’ll survive what’s coming. There’s keys in your life, chords, that I need in order to orchestrate an invocation. I have other notes from Sean and from my sweetheart, Prayer. I need to bring something through. All you need to do is kiss me.’
Jobe was afraid, confounded and helpless. And yet despite the high-strangeness of this encounter, a darker, more perverse part of him admitted something. He wanted to know the feeling of cold, hard power. A tactile freedom like this fake boy seemed to possess, a freedom it had given to Prayer; even if it was only an illusion, even if Prayer was actually just its whore.
Another part of Jobe, an equally dark but more sacrosanct measure of him, wanted to know of the implications that this thing’s very existence insured. It meant there was an almost poetic basis for reality.
How else could he be talking with this thing?
“What the hell do you want to bring through…?” he asked it.
The boy laughed and said, ‘I want to show people how to fall in love.”
Jobe felt a flutter of excitement go through him despite his unease. In the boy’s eyes he saw the suggestion of intricate domains of knowledge, worlds that were wildly seductive to the deeper tenets of his soul. For a moment, Jobe felt the echo of some violent and consuming hunger, an ancient phantasm circling the depths within himself. He wanted to know.
‘To know,’ said the boy, ‘is the natural state of consciousness. It was intended as the natural state of Man also, but the collective human mind was hijacked long ago, reconfigured. You’re not a civil thing, Jobe…discard the shackles you’ve placed on yourself. It’s the only genuine resource you possess. Man once knew that Love is Imagination. Does that sound far-fetched to you? Man once knew this. You were free. You can be free again. All worlds are possible…and inevitable.’
The boy grabbed the sides of his head and kissed him.
Like a web of fire flaring into existence, stretching further than he could feel.

…opening eyes…darkness…
To remain sharp, chose these bloated relics of suffering as their vessels? Disavow themselves, trying to crown a ghost of the sun. Lost their sense of play. Given everything names, trying to engineer a world. Made it hurt them so much.
Perhaps forgotten how to cry. Beautiful. Like stars that become suns when worshipped, as though afraid to look away. Wondering how they ran. Saw it, sometimes. Chilling. Forgotten they were naked. Now living this arduous privacy; concealment and deceit. Tame ghosts; silent and terrible things. Called themselves people now. Afraid of them. Couldn’t stop watching them.
…closing eyes…nothing but light…

Jobe awoke in bloodstained arms, lying beside his sister. Prayer was cradling him on the floor of the living-room, Serima’s head in her lap. He took a deep breath. His stomach felt hot and churning. His head was pounding.
The girl nodded at his sister. “I think she’s passed out, poor girl.”
“I…” He couldn’t manage another word.
Prayer closed her eyes. “I knew you would. He kissed you didn’t he? He kissed me too, once. I’ve been in love with him ever since.”
Jobe pulled himself from the girl’s embrace, moving slowly away across the floor, the pain throbbing through his head and slightly blurring his vision. “No…”
“It’ll pass. The synapses in your brain are firing, linking, creating new patterns. Creating neural pathways for the gift he’s given you. You wouldn’t have taken it any other way.” Prayer laughed at an in-joke only she understood.
Jobe stared, shaken and shaking, at the girl, and at his sister asleep in her arms. And then it was like a bolt of lightning had arced through his brain. He sagged unconscious on the floor, his face in the carpet.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Raj. When will you be posting more of the story?